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Libraries reveal global influence of Scots authors

THE quality and popularity of Scottish literature mean the nation's culture has a higher than average presence in the world's libraries, a major new report has found.

Scotland's global literary ­presence numbers nearly two million separate titles, a report by the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC) Research has found after analysing information in the world's largest online database of library collections.

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson is the most significant Scottish book in the world's literary collections, according to the report, entitled Not Scotch, but Rum: The Scope and Diffusion of the Scottish Presence in the Published Record.

The novel, published in 1883, has been republished 3500 times and is present in 45,000 libraries worldwide.

Brian Lavoie, author of the report, said: "Rather than Scotch whisky, perhaps it is the pirates' legendary bottle of rum that we should toast as the iconic drink of Scotland."

The top ten list of books connected to Scotland held in library collections across the world is led by Treasure Island, and includes Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations, Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows, Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes adventures, JM Barrie's Peter Pan and William Shakespeare's "Scottish play", Macbeth.

The report says: "Treasure Island is the most widely held and most widely republished work in the Scottish national presence, and its popularity seems to be consistent both domestically and overseas.

"In short, Treasure Island appears to be the most globally influential work in the Scottish national presence."

Also notably present in libraries across the world is Scottish mystery and crime writing, including the works of Ian Rankin and Alexander McCall Smith.

The survey also notes a recent increase in the number of books about Scotland, which "suggests that Scotland may be increasingly projecting its influence in the published record by lending itself as a place, as well as its history and culture, to non-Scottish authors and creators as inspiration for their works.

"This may be emerging as another key channel for diffusing Scotland, its culture, and its intellectual heritage around the world."

Books written in, from, and about Scotland, comprising what the report calls the "Scottish national presence", account in total for nearly 20 million holdings in library collections worldwide.

The report also found that many works first published during the Scottish Enlightenment remain prominent in library collections, a "testimony to the durability of interest in them worldwide", as well as thousands of books published before 1850.

With an average number of library holdings per publication of 10.7 (the global average is only 7.2), Scotland has a higher than average national presence in the world's libraries.

The report says: "A nation's cultural and intellectual heritage exerts its influence in many ways.

"We are accustomed to acknowledging this influence in areas such as language, cuisine, and the media.

"But as we have seen, a national presence can be identified within the published record, and this presence too has a role in projecting a country's culture and ideas worldwide."

OCLC Research examined millions of bibliographic descriptions in WorldCat, the online database which includes information on libraries worldwide.

Overall, Scotland's national presence in library collections includes books in 218 languages.

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